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  1. #1
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    REVIEW: Bikes Direct Motobecane Gran Premio Elite

    Background

    I wanted to get a new bike since the beginning of the summer. My old one is a 7-8 year old aluminum tank from Bikes Direct that my dad bought me when he decided I should get into cycling. It served me well, but I never put too many miles on it because I went by the way of long-distance running. Fast forward 5 or so years, and I'm no longer really competing for running. I started riding my bike a bit more to mix it up, do some cross training, and because it was a ton of fun. So naturally, I wanted a new bike.

    I'm not going to be competing on this bike, first of all. I'm doing a metric century with my dad in the fall just for fun, and all my rides are pretty casual. I favor comfort and functionality over speed, so I decided early on in my search that I wanted a steel frame. I toyed with the idea of buying a Soma or other quality steel frameset, buying my roommate's new-but-used 5800 groupset and a the other few parts I needed and build my own bike, but I realized that that would be way too much to handle for me. When I saw that Bikes Direct had a steel frame with 5800 shifters and derailleurs, along with other not-too-shabby components for $900. I decided to swallow my pride and buy it. This really is an unbeatable deal. And I'll tell ya what, those Taiwanese sure know how to build a bike.

    First Impressions/Setup

    I'm 5'8", 130 pounds. Not exactly the biggest guy. I bought a 51cm frame because 1) I knew I wanted a shorter top tube for a more upright, comfortable position and 2) that's what the Bikes Direct size guide said I should buy. I have to say that I definitely could have bought the next size up. I think the frame runs a little small, but after a few rides I like it. It's much more compact that my old bike, which just offers a different experience. It naturally sort of pushes me into a lower position, which I'm beginning to like. So I'll call the sizing issue a wash.

    The only issue with the shipping was that since the fork was turned around, two little points on the back rubbed on something and some of the paint is scratched away. I'll just put some resin over it to protect it. It's not like it's a very noticeable spot.

    CgAAG1XF_BSERl0vAAAAANqMAs8998.jpg The scratches on the back of the fork.

    The wheels were aligned and tensioned properly right out of the box. I was surprised. I'll see how the break-in process treats them, but they're still straight after 70 miles. The Shimano RS11 wheels look and feel great as well.

    CgAAHFXF_JuETbWtAAAAAD36yEQ391.jpg

    The saddle is crap. I got a new saddle after my second ride. Don't bother with these "Velo" brand saddles that come on BD bikes.

    The welds look solid. No issues on the frame. One nice touch is that they put a matte cover over the chain-side chainstay to keep the paint fresh. Kudos to them for it.

    CgAAG1XF_BSEMOU-AAAAANvcH2I276.jpg

    The brakes are Tektro, and they're not the best. But they work, which is what matters. I may buy my roommate's 5800 brakes off of him for cheap, but I'm not worried about the Tektros.

    The bars, stem, and seatpost are all just non-descript aluminum. They feel fine and don't weigh too much. I might get a new stem down the line simply to elongate my position, but the quality seems fair.

    CgAAG1XF_BSEa3EjAAAAAOtrt0g634.jpg Nothing special about the stem & bars...

    The chainwheel is a compact (50/34) FSA Gossamer, which some people apparently don't like. I have no issues with it. The cassette is a 12-32 I believe. I haven't checked, but there's a big frickin gear on the back. I like having it, because I like to spin up hills.

    CgAAHFXF_JuEO6PsAAAAAN-Kvek335.jpgCgAAG1XF_BSEWbE6AAAAAF1IElo030 (1).jpg Dagwire cable housings, as well.

    The front and rear derailleurs both had to be calibrated, tensioned, and have the upper and lower limits set. Before I touched anything, the rear derailleur couldn't even go to the biggest cog. I actually spent a fair amount of time getting everything right with them because it was my first time. My roommate helped me out and they shift beautifully. I had the bargain Shimano STI gruppo from 7 years ago on my old bike, so the 105 derailleurs and shifters are absolutely amazing to me.

    I weighed it sans water bottle and saddle bag (I didn't take my pump off because I was too lazy) and it's a hair under the 22 lb mark.

    Riding it

    Like I said before, I could have bought the next bigger size, but I'm growing to like having a smaller bike. It pushes me into the drops more and I like it. I couldn't do that as easily on my old bike because the top tube was so long. It feels agile and smooth, but does get a little twitchy for what I'm used to when going down big hills.

    My second ride on it I climbed a category 4 mountain (according to Strava) and I was able to eat it up. For someone who has a 17 lb carbon climbing bike, this would feel like a tank but I loved it. Especially with the compact crank and big cog in the back. I like to spin, so it worked well. I definitely liked having the smaller frame to save on weight at this point.

    The frame is great. It flexes in all the right ways and is stiff in all the right ways. It feels like just a no-nonsense, solid steel frame. But it's still fairly light. The main frame is Reynolds 520 and the rear triangle is something else (likely just standard hi-tensile carbon steel). The fork is carbon. Again, not the best stuff but it's light and feels good. It soaks up the road rattle well.

    The bottom line

    I know I kind of rambled, but I tried to keep it organized. The bottom line is that if you want a solid steel frame bike you won't be disappointed. It has a sporty, slightly more aggressive geometry so you can use it for faster rides. I'm using it for casual road riding for now, but I could definitely see this being able to handle touring cross-country or being a great commuter as well. It's possible to put on fenders and a rear rack if you choose to do that. Plus, at $900 this is one of the best deals you can find. It's hard to find a steel frame with 105s for less than around $1300. Just make sure you know how to set up derailleurs or take it to a LBS to set it up for you. And ditch the stock saddle.

    Sorry for the wall of text.

    Happy riding!

    CgAAG1XF_BSEdVpWAAAAAE-JZks020.jpg
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    Last edited by lkngro; 08-08-15 at 07:17 AM.

  2. #2
    L-I-V-I-N dtrain's Avatar
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    Solid value. Chainstay protector even? wow (kidding you).

    RS11's are heavy but pretty decent.

    I replaced Tektro calipers with 5800 - nice difference in feel

    Sizing is very important. Hate to say this, but you might have gotten that part wrong. There are other ways to get your hands lower.

    You should probably go eat a hamburger or two.

    Enjoy and thanks for the report.
    "The older you do get, the more rules they're gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin', man, L-I-V-I-N." - Wooderson

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  3. #3
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    Looks like a great deal for the money. They claim the rear triangle is custom butted cromo. RS11 wheels are boat anchors but like all Shimano wheels they are very well built (and usually true out of the box), much better than a lot of the other BD bikes in that price range come with. I think you are on the correct size. Nothing a longer stem can't fix. Personally I prefer a smaller frame with 120mm stem, I love the handling with longer stem
    http://www.pedalroom.com/members/rms13

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the terrific review! I have to agree with dtrain that you may have been better off with the 54. Having said that, you can try a longer stem and see if that works for you as rms pointed out.

    I would invest some money working with a fitter to max out your comfort and efficiency.

    At the very worst, you can sell the bike and size up one if that's what works best.

    That was my main concern with BD; not being able to test ride.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by sam_cyclist View Post
    Thanks for the terrific review! I have to agree with dtrain that you may have been better off with the 54. Having said that, you can try a longer stem and see if that works for you as rms pointed out.

    I would invest some money working with a fitter to max out your comfort and efficiency.

    At the very worst, you can sell the bike and size up one if that's what works best.

    That was my main concern with BD; not being able to test ride.
    There is no 54 ;-)

    There is a 53 which they recommend for riders 5'9-5'11 which has a 55cm top tube. The 51 has a 54cm top tube. I think a longer stem will make the bike a perfect fit for OP
    http://www.pedalroom.com/members/rms13

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by rms13 View Post
    There is no 54 ;-)

    There is a 53 which they recommend for riders 5'9-5'11 which has a 55cm top tube. The 51 has a 54cm top tube. I think a longer stem will make the bike a perfect fit for OP
    Yeah, I just meant the next size up.

    I am curious about the bike weight if OP ever gets around to weighing it (sans add ons).

    How about a few pics too?

    OP: update us if you get a longer stem. I'm curious as to how that goes.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the review. A few questions..

    1. You said you test rode the jamis quest comp & Elite? How does the ride compare to either of those? I'm looking at the comp due to price, but this is an option as well. Can you tell a difference with the BD straight fork, and the Jamis curved fork?

    2. Would this easily take 28mm tires? what about 32?

    3. As others have said, would you mind weighing it, even if it's the old "step on the scales, pick up bike" method?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by 12strings View Post
    2. Would this easily take 28mm tires? what about 32?
    The description of the bike says

    the clearances around the wheels sufficient for tires up to 700x25c
    http://www.pedalroom.com/members/rms13

  9. #9
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    Well, the bikes Direct descriptions say some other things I know to be inaccurate, so I'd like to hear it firsthand... :-)

  10. #10
    Senior Member datlas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 12strings View Post
    Well, the bikes Direct descriptions say some other things I know to be inaccurate, so I'd like to hear it firsthand... :-)
    You mean it's NOT the "deal of the century????"
    Quote Originally Posted by RUOkie View Post
    never underestimate the idiocy of BF.

  11. #11
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    That's a sharp looking bike! Did you get orange or black.

    If you got black, don't tell me because I want to think you got orange, it looks better.

  12. #12
    Senior Member link0's Avatar
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    Congrats on a great deal on a great bike. Gotta love modern steel bikes with STI and carbon forks. I also prefer smaller sizes. I'm 5'10/145lbs (with a fairly short torso) and I prefer 52-54cm. My body proportions absolutely hate long top tubes.

  13. #13
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    FYI, the 51 cm size is really a size 54 or so. That is because BD uses the actual seat tube length as the size, not the effective seat tube length (up to a horizontal top tube). Most nominal sizes in other brands are based roughly on the seat tube length extended up to where a horizontal top tube would be. Not BD. You should keep that in mind. It is likely the exactly right size for you.
    Robert

    Quote Originally Posted by LAJ View Post
    No matter where I go, here I am...

  14. #14
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    I'm upset with myself for reading that long a$$ post and get to the end and no pic of the bike. I know I can see it on their site, but that's not the same.

  15. #15
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    As someone who was looking at steel bikes in this price range, I think this review has confirmed that I will NOT be getting this bike. I was looking at the Jamis Quest Comp, when I ran accross the Gran Premio. (Quest Elite is nice, but simply out of my price range right now). Here's the breakdown as I see it:

    WHAT'S THE SAME: (OR COMPARABLE):
    -Renolds 520 STEEL FRAME
    -a Carbon fork

    Points favoring the Quest Comp:
    +Local Bike shop: I can ride it, pick the right size, get free tune-ups for a year, have someone to talk to with any issues.
    +Better looking (subjective, I know): curved fork vs straight, better color (1015 silver vs BD black/orange).
    +Appears to be larger brakes, and so I know it can take 28mm tires.
    +I have ridden the Quest Comp, and sport, and I know that I like the saddle on the sport best, which the LBS said they could switch to the comp if I bought it with no additional charge. (BD saddle is reported to be "crap")
    +Actually $50 cheaper the the Bikes direct since the LBS is selling these at about $100 under msrp.
    +Possibly slightly lighter wheels, thought i'm not sure...but I've heard the RS11 are well-built, but heavy.

    Points favoring the Gran Premio Elite:
    +105 drivetrain: This is the biggie, and really the ONLY place that BD wins.
    +Possibly 2+lbs lighter, mostly due to 105, i guess.

    So, If I get some generous gift money for my September birthday, I may pull the trigger on the Quest Comp. I figure I can always upgrade the drivetrain when it wears out in a few years...but Sora has good reviews a solid dependable set, and for me, this will be more than adequate for commuting and club rides.


    Again, Inkro, thanks for the review, even if we came to different conclusions!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by 12strings View Post
    Thanks for the review. A few questions..

    1. You said you test rode the jamis quest comp & Elite? How does the ride compare to either of those? I'm looking at the comp due to price, but this is an option as well. Can you tell a difference with the BD straight fork, and the Jamis curved fork?

    2. Would this easily take 28mm tires? what about 32?

    3. As others have said, would you mind weighing it, even if it's the old "step on the scales, pick up bike" method?

    The ride is a little more jittery, I'd say, than the Jamis bikes I've ridden. That might be in part due to the smaller frame size I got. Overall, they're all very nice rides. The steel definitely does a lot of work in smoothing everything out.

    It came with 25mm tires, and I don't think that 32mm would work. Possibly 28mm, but it would be close. If you put fenders on you could only run 25mm at the absolute max.

    I weighed it just by stepping of the scale with it, and it's around 21.8 lbs with a pump that I was too lazy to take off. Heavier than I thought, but it handles like something way lighter than it is.

    Either way, you won't be disappointed. As long as you can calibrate a drivetrain, you're golden. The way I see it, if you buy the Jamis and upgrade the drivetrain, you'll need new wheels as well to accommodate 11 speeds. That's ~$500 assuming you only replace the rear wheel. If you get the BD bike, you already have the 11 speed drivetrain and can upgrade the bars, stem, seatpost, possibly wheels if you want, and saddle for way less than that, and boom - you have a bike that's almost identical to a Jamis Quest. I know that the assurance of having a LBS is invaluable, so it's really just what you prefer.
    Last edited by lkngro; 08-08-15 at 07:12 AM.

  17. #17
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    Another thing about size. The seat tube angle is 74 deg. Many bikes this size have a 73 deg STA. The steeper STA has the apparent effect of shortening the top tube, but in fact you still have to sit where you have to sit relative to the bottom bracket. So in terms of reach to the handlebar the top tube length of this bike at 54 cm is really equivalent to 55 cm on a 73 deg STA bike. Truly this is a mid-range 54 cm frame IME.
    Robert

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    No matter where I go, here I am...

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
    FYI, the 51 cm size is really a size 54 or so. That is because BD uses the actual seat tube length as the size, not the effective seat tube length (up to a horizontal top tube). Most nominal sizes in other brands are based roughly on the seat tube length extended up to where a horizontal top tube would be. Not BD. You should keep that in mind. It is likely the exactly right size for you.
    Based roughly on seat tube length up to an imaginary top tube? Huh?

    I'm familiar with seat tubes measured center-to-center (of BB and TT), and center-to-top (of BB to TT), but not what you're describing. I'm unfamiliar with EST (effective seat tube) as a sizing concept; ETT, yes, of course, and I understand the rationale of measuring a sloping TT to an imaginary horizontal. But what is gained by talking about EST?

    Which producers use EST?
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

  19. #19
    Senior Member cale's Avatar
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    As a recent BD buyer, I was interested to compare the OP's comments with my own experience. The review was excellent and I too was initially concerned by the size and comments about comfort in the drops. But as I read on, the suggestion that the stem length could be better and the saddle was crap, I recognized my own experience upon first riding my new "bought un-tested" bike.

    * Fit is critical. True words but there's no mystique. I haven't changed that much over five decades, I'm a little shorter (but my arms feel longer, haha). A person who knows the frame dimensions that work for them can buy the appropriate frame size without "sitting on it". But there's a good reason BD publishes a size guide and uses big, bold type to make sure you don't miss it, THEY WANT YOU TO PAY ATTENTION TO FIT.

    * Unless the OP has arms considerably longer than mine, and I'm a bit taller, he bought the right size and his main fit concerns should be in the cockpit and the saddle. I had a stem on order BEFORE my BD bike arrived because I was certain that the 55cm frame I bought would not fit with the spec'd 100mm stem. To get MY fit, I needed a 110. I also spent two weeks sorting out the spacers so OP... if you got this far... Don't cut your fork tube too short. Cutting off a bit to make it comfortable is fine, but save any "fit the stem to the headset cap" cuts until you're absolutely certain you've got the spacer dimensions worked out and you like how it feels after hours in the saddle.

    * I also had a saddle on order because ALL bikes are sold with crappy saddles. (Okay some bums are less choosy about saddles than others. :-))

    * Steel frames are heavier than quality aluminium frames. Who's here to quibble about 16-18 oz of weight? The OP's claimed weight compares favorably with the significantly more expensive model I bought. With his heavier wheels, his bike is still lighter than mine. I'm of the opinion that it is better to ride home late than walk home. An exaggeration, of course but I'd rather have strong heavier wheels than light delicate wheels. (I paid extra for strong AND light, you always do!)

    * Tektro brakes. BD is as guilty as the rest of the bike manufacturers in breaking up groupsets to swap-in "like" components.

    * All carbon forks are crappy. Yeah, I said it. There was a time when a bike purchaser could be swayed simply by the details of a bike fork. Chrome, engraving, cutouts, painted-cutouts, flat crown, semi-sloping crown, uni-crown, and the list goes on. But they all rode like they wanted you to experience the cobbles of Roubaix in every detail. Carbon forks appearing on sub-$1k bikes today are crap because they reek of sameness. They're a claim on the sales sheet but add little to the bike's aesthetics. At least they perform on a magnitude better than a cheap old steel fork.

    * I just sold the Gossamer cranks that came on my Motobecane and got $75 because they had so little wear. The Ultegra 6850 crank is better. Not $150 better but $75 better (IMHO) and it just happens you can get them for $150 online from overseas vendors. I'm guilty of being swayed by Shimano marketing; persuaded into wanting a complete group. But honestly, can you deny that the new Ultegra crank is a work of art? I HAD to have it. OP, your Gossamer crankset is great! So don't be silly like me.

    * BD replaced a carbon/alum seatpost that broke on my first ride (the epoxy joint at the seatclamp failed). I'm pretty certain they received the replacement from Taiwan because it took two weeks for them to ship the replacement (2 day priority mail) to me. They generously offered the tracking number immediately upon receiving my email regarding the warranty issue but that "shipment" didn't move for two weeks. (mild sarcasm) Overall, the customer service was polite and timely but they aren't stripping parts off boxed bikes just to get a replacement part out. It is obviously a very lean operation.

    I didn't make any attempt to organize my thoughts so, OP, I know it takes considerable effort to write a good review and I think your review was GREAT! Thanks.
    Last edited by cale; 08-09-15 at 01:00 AM. Reason: clarity
    Haha - we're laughing together, I hope.

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    Nice write up, cale.

    It's always great to see a detailed review for a BD bike. Or any other for that matter.

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    Just responding to the claim that all BD bikes come with crap saddles: the Le Champion I bought in 2005 still has the original saddle, which is extremely light and as comfortable as any saddle I've ever ridden, including the Brooks Professional that I used in the 1970s.

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    Almost all bike makers use effective seat tube as the nominal size. Effective seat tube is the distance from the BB to the top of the effective top tube. So if you understand ETT, you also understand EST. BD doesn't size that way. They use actual seat tube which is a problem on sloping top tube bikes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 12strings View Post
    As someone who was looking at steel bikes in this price range, I think this review has confirmed that I will NOT be getting this bike. I was looking at the Jamis Quest Comp, when I ran accross the Gran Premio. (Quest Elite is nice, but simply out of my price range right now). Here's the breakdown as I see it:

    WHAT'S THE SAME: (OR COMPARABLE):
    -Renolds 520 STEEL FRAME
    -a Carbon fork

    Points favoring the Quest Comp:
    +Local Bike shop: I can ride it, pick the right size, get free tune-ups for a year, have someone to talk to with any issues.
    +Better looking (subjective, I know): curved fork vs straight, better color (1015 silver vs BD black/orange).
    +Appears to be larger brakes, and so I know it can take 28mm tires.
    +I have ridden the Quest Comp, and sport, and I know that I like the saddle on the sport best, which the LBS said they could switch to the comp if I bought it with no additional charge. (BD saddle is reported to be "crap")
    +Actually $50 cheaper the the Bikes direct since the LBS is selling these at about $100 under msrp.
    +Possibly slightly lighter wheels, thought i'm not sure...but I've heard the RS11 are well-built, but heavy.

    Points favoring the Gran Premio Elite:
    +105 drivetrain: This is the biggie, and really the ONLY place that BD wins.
    +Possibly 2+lbs lighter, mostly due to 105, i guess.

    So, If I get some generous gift money for my September birthday, I may pull the trigger on the Quest Comp. I figure I can always upgrade the drivetrain when it wears out in a few years...but Sora has good reviews a solid dependable set, and for me, this will be more than adequate for commuting and club rides.


    Again, Inkro, thanks for the review, even if we came to different conclusions!
    Previous generation 9-speed Tiagra vs newest generation 11-speed 105 is a ridiculously huge difference IMO. RS-11 wheels are also equal or better than the Alex wheels.

    Nothing wrong with your conclusions though, per se. Bikes are a highly personal choice.
    Last edited by link0; 08-08-15 at 04:58 PM.

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    My Motobecane Imm Spirit had a good saddle was light. I used it for 2-3 years then got a Ritchey just thought it would look better and but a slight upgrade. Funny for all the BD haters I road mine today 64 miles the dura ace 7800 is smooth. Other than the saddle and bought a set 7800 brakes to match I have 9000 happy miles on it now. I test road a Madone 4.7 against it and like the Moto better.
    Bikes Wilier Grand Turismo 2013
    Motobecane Immortal Spirit 2010

  25. #25
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Madison, IN
    My Bikes
    2015 Jamis Quest Comp
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    647
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    Quote Originally Posted by link0 View Post
    Previous generation 9-speed Tiagra vs newest generation 11-speed 105 is a ridiculously huge difference IMO. RS-11 wheels are also better than the Alex wheels.

    Nothing wrong with your conclusions though, per say. Bikes are a highly personal choice.
    thanks for info on the wheels, It's hard to find solid info on them. They would likely be my first upgrade anyway. People here are raving about the Vuelta Corsa lites you can get for 200-300.

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